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Thales awarded SSL modernisation contract

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On 3 August Transport for London announced that it had awarded sole bidder Thales the GBP760m signalling and train control systems contract for London Underground’s Circle, District, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines. Known as the Sub-Surface Lines (SSL), the four lines total around 184 route km (114 miles) and carry 1.3m passengers each day.

Work is expected to begin later this year, with the first increase in capacity delivered on the Circle line in 2021, and allowing a frequency increase to 32 trains/hour in central London by 2022. The final improvements would come in 2023, with an increase in peak and off-peak services on the Metropolitan line. “Once completed, around 60% of the London Underground will have been modernised using Thales signalling technology”, said Thales Chairman & CEO Patrice Caine.

The award replaces a GBP345m contract with Bombardier, terminated in December 2013 with TfL saying the ‘complex nature of the railway’ meant that the supplier’s programme ‘was simply not progressing and there was no guarantee it would have worked’. Although marking a significant cost increase, TfL claims this is 18% less per km than ‘the successful modernisation of the Northern line which was around half the cost of the Jubilee and Victoria line modernisations delivered under the flawed public-private partnership arrangements, ended by the Mayor five years ago.’

The significant project is part of the four-line GBP5.41bn modernisation programme that includes 191 new modern air-conditioned walk-through trains. Once the SSL have been modernised, work would begin to introduce new trains and control systems for the Piccadilly, Central, Bakerloo and Waterloo and City lines.